United Airlines is Planning to Fly from New York JFK Airport again in 2021, after a 6 year hiatus, and to “compete aggressively” on premium transcontinental routes to California. United will face competition from JetBlue Mint on the A321, the only U.S. carrier to offer a suite with closing doors in its business class.
It was certainly a head scratcher for many New Yorkers when United stopped flying from JFK in 2015, consolidating all of its international operations and even most domestic flights at Newark Airport EWR. While Newark is great if you live in New Jersey or perhaps near the Port Authority, where you can take a New Jersey Transit train, it's fairly inconvenient for many in New York City to get to, especially if coming from the East side of the city.
With COVID-19 and the resulting drop in flying (airline capacity in New York state is down 70% in October 2020, compared to the same period last year), United is betting that it can secure slots at JFK, although it's unclear which airline's slots it's planning to purchase.
CEO Scott Kirby has previously bemoaned United's 2015 decision to leave JFK, which was taken under previous CEO Jeff Smisek. Smisek had pointed out that United had lost money on the JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO routes for seven years, and United's lease was expiring.
But as Kirby pointed out, many of the customers on these United routes wanted to fly into New York, not New Jersey; United lost them as passengers with the switch to Newark.
If United does return to JFK, perhaps the additional competition will check the increased fares JetBlue has been able to charge for Mint on its JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO routes, which range from $799 to $1649 one way during peak holiday periods.
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